Despite making the bill his top priority, Assembly Speaker John Perez has lost his bid to disincorporate the city of Vernon, thereby giving local control advocates a victory. On Monday the State Senate rejected the proposal on a vote of 13-7. You’ll recall that the Assembly already passed the bill earlier this year on a 62-7 vote. Perez has appeared confident all along that he would get his way, but the city of Vernon fought back with a spirited defense. Local government officials, along with unions and business interests, spoke out against AB 46 for the dangerous precedent it would set in allowing Sacramento politicians to dictate which cities should be allowed to exist. Furthermore, the economic implications were also worrisome due to the tens of thousands of jobs the industrial city provides to the region. Under the terms of the bill, any California city with fewer than 150 residents would have been disincorporated, and that criteria was met only by the tiny Vernon. In response to the vote, Perez commented that Senators were “chos[ing] to ignore decades of corruption in Vernon." However, the Bee points out that Vernon has implemented major reforms and support has corralled around giving the city more time to improve:
“The Senate vote on the measure city came days after the Vernon City Council voted to adopt a package of reforms aimed at providing more oversight of the city proposed by state Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles. De Leon, who also represents Vernon, recently withdrew his support of Pérez's bill, saying the city should have a chance to enact its own changes before facing disincorporation. ‘You simply do not build something with a sledgehammer. It's not that simple,’ De Leon said, adding: ‘(Vernon) unquestionably has had well chronicled problems, but this is not the way out.’”
Under De Leon’s plan, Vernon would have to sell off city-owned housing, establish an environmental mitigation fund and adopt further reforms. According to a spokesperson for the speaker, he does not plan to continue trying to disincorporate Vernon. Perez released the following statement:
“Today's action by the Senate is a deep disappointment to the men and women of the Southeast Communities. I introduced AB 46 to finally end the toxic corruption that has poisoned the Southeast Communities by disincorporating Vernon. The Senate chose to ignore decades of corruption in Vernon, and AB 46, like multiple bills that came in response to the Bell scandals last year, could not gather a majority of senators.
The fact is clear: Senators Calderon and De León, along with their colleagues, have given Vernon a free pass to continue doing business as usual, and those senators will own the responsibility for any misdeeds that may occur in the future. I am proud of the fact that I stood with the men and women of the Southeast Communities in this effort."